By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale

According to NOAA, we can expect drought conditions until the end of April, which coincides with our expectations that spring is our “dry season” ( Unfortunately, temperatures are predicted to be higher than normal, so we should take particular care of new plants in our landscapes, especially shrubs and trees. Making sure there is sufficient mulch will help, and if you are practically inclined you might decide to install a simple drip irrigation system:

With the warmer weather you are probably looking at your lawn and considering what it needs. Please avoid “weed and feed” products. If you have a problem with annual weeds, use a pre-emergent product before they start growing. (Depending on local conditions, there may still be time before the end of February.) Fertilizer should only be applied when the grass is actively growing, otherwise it’s simply wasted as it will leach away before the grass has a chance to take it up. Basically, weeds will start to grow before the grass begins to green up, so there is no optimum time to apply a combined product for it to be properly effective. For more details on fertilizing your lawn, please see and for understanding weed control, see

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UF has recently constructed a website for homeowners wishing to grow citrus. As you may know, “citrus greening,” spread by the tiny Asian psyllid, has been plaguing commercial citrus groves and has spread to home landscapes. This disease can be devastating to trees without a great deal of management, but now there are guidelines specifically for homeowners, and there are newer cultivars available that have been bred to be resistant to the disease. Here is the information you need to choose, plant, and grow healthy citrus:

As our landscapes begin to green up, it’s a good time to see if any prohibited invasive plants have snuck in. These are plants that have been proven detrimental to the balance of our natural areas. They crowd out native plants and provide next to no benefits for our wildlife. An easy one to spot is elephants’ ears, which spread easily along ditches and waterways. Another is the high-climbing cat’s claw vine, which seeds itself around all too successfully. You have probably seen it blooming up in the treetops, and maybe have admired those sunny yellow trumpet flowers. It’s not to be confused with the fragrant spring-flowering native vine, Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. But its beauty is truly only skin deep. Mature plants develop large tubers which are especially hard to dig out along fence lines and from beneath shrubs. I know from experience! And weed killers have limited effectiveness, although they can keep some top growth down. To learn more, check out This is a visual guide to plants assessed by UF/IFAS:

I’ve already found aphids on my collards, so I’m using a relatively benign product, insecticidal soap, to stop them spreading. It’s too early for lady beetles to find them, but when they turn up I expect good things to happen. Nature has a way of balancing itself if given a chance and we need to do that at the personal level. The way we manage our landscapes, beginning with our soil, is so important. For guidelines on how to do it, check out the Florida-Friendly Gardening Guide: Happy spring!

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